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Lorraine Feather: Cafe Society

It’s taken nearly two years for prodigious jazz progeny Lorraine Feather to oblige us with a follow up to her terrific Fats Waller tribute, New York City Drag. The wait, it turns out, has been well worthwhile. Last time around, Feather shaped superb lyrics to fit 12 Waller classics. With Cafe Society, she does the same on a broader scale, refitting tunes from an even dozen composers-Charlie Barnet, Duke Ellington and Johnny Mandel among them-with sassy new lyrics. Feather’s intent is, it seems, to pay spirited homage to the prebop sophistication of her legendary parents (big band singer Jane and fabled critic Leonard). When, in the title tune, she pines for “those legendary days” and wishes “with all my heart [that] I could be at Cafe Society,” it’s easy to picture her mother at the microphone in some smoky Manhattan den while her father sits ringside.

New York City Drag was fun and inventive in a mellow, understated way. Here, Feather is decidedly more boisterous, swinging like an Andrews Sister through Ellington and Harry Carney’s “Rockin’ in Rhythm” and going wildly native on both the deliciously overblown “Big Fun” and the tropically syncopated “Jungle Rhythm” (featured in Disney’s latest animated epic, The Jungle Book 2). She also has a whale of a time breezing through Barnet and Skippy Martin’s “The Right Idea,” a playfully romantic adventure reminiscent of “Let’s Get Lost.” Her spirited high jinks are, however, gorgeously offset by such velvety additions as Mandel’s “Speed of Light” (sort of a gently heated Afro-Cuban version of “You’ve Got a Friend”) and a sultry “Love Call” (from Ellington’s “Creole Love Call”) that recalls the sexy insouciance of Lee Wiley. Most remarkable, though, is “The Way We Say Goodbye,” a soaring salute to torchiness that underscores the melancholic Sturm und Drang of “Black Coffee” with the philosophic mistiness of Cole Porter’s “Every Time We Say Goodbye.”

Originally Published